Roll On 2022
After almost 2 fallow years we are thoroughly looking forward to taking our guests back along the smooth, undulating roads of Normandy. It seems like a lifetime since we welcomed riders to varied sights and sounds of the region. Hopefully, 2022 will be a bumper year as we invite cyclists back to explore the wide-open spaces of la Manche, Calvados, One, Eure and Seine-Maritime.
It was only after I was lucky enough to take out a small party this year that I realised exactly what I had been missing. We disembarked the in-bound Ouistreham ferry early morning and took the coast road along the D-Day landing beaches which played such a pivotal part in World history in 1944. It was along this coast that the allies launched simultaneous landings of US, British, Canadian and French forces on the famous beaches of Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.
We took a sharp left at Arromanches where the remains of the Mulberry Harbour formed such an important bridgehead 76 years ago. The roads took us straight into the centre of Bayeaux and whilst the cobbled streets were not completely conducive to a smooth ride the medieval architecture was as-ever breathtaking. We had a busy itinerary and no time to stop for long - but the Bayeux tapestry is well worth a visit. We rode on through an ancient forest through landscapes of meadows, hedges, wooded areas and wetlands to reach Cerisy-la-Forêt where we stopped to look around the abbey. This wonderful monument has existed for over a millennium and was once a sacred retreat for monarchs from all over Europe. Remounted we pushed through the city of ruins (St. Lo) and onto Coutances for an evening's stop-over.
Duly refreshed the next day we travelled to the top of the Contentin peninsula passing through some memorable countryside on the way. When we got to the bustling city of Cherbourg on the northerly tip we turned sharp left and took a leisurely ride down the coastal road south. We rode through the pristine sea-side towns of Dielette and Barneville-Carteret before stopping for the evening in Granville. This is a bustling fishing town very popular with Parisians and it lived up to the billing, rewarding our hungry riders with plenty of fresh fish and seafood.
The next day we took the coastal route to Avranches and a clear day afforded us some spectacular views across the Baie du Mont featuring the centrepiece of the magnificent Mont St. Michel. This architectural masterpiece was once a place of medieval pilgrimage and today it remains just that. It dominates the surrounding landscape and rises out of the bay against the background of the greatest tidal ranges in Europe. It is a visual spectacular and our overnight accommodation at Auberge de la Baie allowed us to take in the beauty of the place at close quarters.
The next day we headed off along the coastal road toward Brittany and after an amazing lunch of oysters in Cancale we reached the great fortress town of St. Malo for a well-earned dinner within the towns ancient walls. A quick sprint up the hill to the harbour and the ferry saw us disembark around mid-morning for a day on the sundeck before arriving back at Portsmouth by early evening.
Normandy (and Brittany) are regions of great diversity and perfectly laid out to provide a wonderful road cycling experience for riders of most capabilities. Obviously the more you ride, the more you can take in but the important thing to remember is that it is not a race. Like a fine wine, the regions need to be sipped and appreciated rather than swallowed in an almighty gulp where some of the more subtle flavours might be lost.